Before they ever acquire the verbal skills to express their thoughts, feelings, and *observations*, children are able to make sense of the world and judge what they see beyond what many adults may instinctively predict. While they are not yet experienced or confident enough to have meta-awareness of their world – that is, a sense of context for their perceptions and the notion to even question the accuracy of them, they are nonetheless equipped with the inate ability to discriminate the onslaught of (sensory) stimuli which begins the instant they graduate from the womb.
In other words, they notice everything! They do not yet process it with the sophistication and judgement that comes only from experience (which comes from successes, which come from failures, which comes from thinking and doing). And, while they are not ready to make many sound and reasoned conclusions about what they are exposed to in their living environments, they are very much doing that most important job of working through and making these same judgements and conclusions. In other words, they are learning.
What are they learning? That is up to those of us who are privileged and blessed to have charge over them and their environments. It is a sacred responsibility and trust, and one of the most important and far-reaching impacts a person can make in this world.
Any one who accepts that duty, has likewise accepted the gravity and honor of teaching these new people the ways of the world. Children learn what they live.
If you show compassion for others in your own life, they will notice and learn. If you not only give that homeless man a buck or two as you pass by him on the street, but shake his hand, smile, and exchange a word or two, even a lame reference to the weather or traffic, you are demonstrating that you treat a person like a person, and that is showing respect. If you are firm and consistent, and likewise kind and patient as you are teaching your puppy to relieve himself OUTSIDE, you are demonstrating that lessons cannot be rushed, and that they require humility, and the willingness to accept mistakes.
If you show that to a child, you are giving him the confidence and security to trust that that is how to act in this world. You are showing him that he has the right and the safety to make mistakes of his own and that he will still be loved.
If you live a compassionate life and show compassion, the compassion that you indeed feel, because you know you are privileged and blessed to have the opportunity to live on in todays and tomorrow’s children, then you will know that you are living and will leave behind a very special legacy.